Ezra lived at a hinge time in history. The Babylonians had demolished Judah and captured the people, bringing them to Babylon. After seventy years, the Persian Empire overtook the Babylonians and permitted the Israelites to return home. The reason for this traumatic series of events was the people’s idolatry. God had prophesied through Jeremiah and Ezekiel that He would remove His own people from their land as punishment for their infidelity. The people had returned to the land about 80 years before Ezra got there. They had rebuilt the temple and had resettled the area around Jerusalem. However, God’s people had begun to intermarry with the surrounding peoples even though God had clearly forbidden His people to do this (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). In fact, this was one of the main causes that brought idolatry into Israel centuries earlier. For example, Solomon built shrines to several of the Canaanite deities to please the wives he married.
1 Kings 11:4-8 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God…7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
Slowly, over centuries, Israel and then Judah slid into syncretism—adopting the religious and moral practices of their neighbors, until they had as many gods as cities (Jeremiah 11:13). God had nearly destroyed the people because of their idolatry last time. They had barely a foothold in their land, still living under Persian rule, and they were already making the same mistakes that would inevitably lead to idolatry and God’s wrath.
However, there was one person who had God’s view of history and this situation—a man named Ezra. He stood up in a dark and confusing time and taught the people to obey God, no matter the cost. He gathered the people, fasted, prayed, read them the Bible, and taught them the way of God. As a result of this one man’s stand, the people repented, separating themselves from the foreign wives and husbands they had married (Ezra 10:11-12). The outcome was not only renewal in Ezra’s time, but a lasting legacy of faithfulness to God. In fact, the Israelites never returned to the idolatry that had so dogged them in their earlier years. By the time of Jesus, the subject of worshipping other gods doesn’t even come up.
In what ways do you live in a hinge point of history? American culture has gone and is continuing to go through massive changes. We can’t allow ourselves to go with the flow. We must root our own beliefs in Scripture and be like Ezra today. Will you stand up for what God says is right?